Bombay High Court: No Straitjacket Formula of a Woman’s Reaction to an Act of Outrage

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The accused filed a bail application in a case concerning Sections 376, 354A, and 354B of the Indian Penal Code. In this case, after assessing the circumstances, Bombay High Court granted bail.

Brief Facts of the Case 

The complainant alleged that the applicant, an acquaintance forced himself on her on 28 October 2019. This took place when the complainant was on a trip with her friends in Aamby Valley to celebrate Diwali. In the statement, the complainant said that she entered a bedroom on the second floor of the bungalow to sleep. In the wee hours of the morning, she woke up to the applicant, forcing himself on her and pushed him away. An FIR was lodged at the Paud Police Station on 8 November 2019. The applicant was arrested in December 2019 and has been incarcerated ever since. Thus, the present application is filed by the accused seeking bail.

Petitioner’s Submission

The complainant submitted that she knew the accused from the past eight years. On 27 October 2019, she went to Aamby Valley with her friends to celebrate Diwali. The applicant was also present there. The complainant went to a room on the second floor to have rest while the party continued. In the wee hours of the morning, she woke up to the applicant forcing himself on her. She narrated this to her friends the next day, and on 29 October 2019, everyone went home. She suffered depression and had to consult a psychiatrist. Resultantly, on 8 November 2019, the complainant lodged an FIR against the applicant with the Paud Police Station.

The A.P.P and counsel for intervenor argued that the offense is serious since the modesty of a girl has been outraged. The applicant has admitted to his guilt in many WhatsApp messages to his friends, where he apologizes for his actions. This amounts to an extra-judicial confession.

Respondent’s Submission

The counsel for the applicant argued that there is an unexplainable delay in lodging the FIR. The explanation that the complainant was scared is insufficient. The counsel for the applicant argued that there are glaring inconsistencies in the complainant’s statements under Section 164 of the CrPC. These inconsistencies relate to the point of time when she disclosed the incident to her friends. In the zero FIR, she said that she didn’t disclose the incident to anyone and left the bungalow on the second day. But, in a later statement, she said that she disclosed the incident to her friends on 29th October 2019 before everyone left.

Statements recorded by two of their friends from the night reveal that they saw the applicant and complainant sleeping together in the bedroom. The applicant also contended that one of the photographs placed on record shows the applicant and complainant in a friendly pose after the alleged incident took place. The counsel also argued that as per the complainant’s medical history, she was drunk at the time of the incident and so not in full consciousness to understand.

Court’s Observation

The Court observed that the submission put forth by the complainant that despite her raising alarm and calling for help, no one came to her rescue was astonishing. The WhatsApp chats relied upon by the prosecution and intervenor to prove the guilt of the applicant amounts to an extra-judicial confession. This is a weak piece of evidence unless corroborated with substantial evidence. Moreover, the messages do not refer to the alleged incident. They only show the applicant apologizing for his conduct with the complainant.

The Court observed that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the applicant is guilty of the offenses for which he is charged. The Court stated that this was a prima facie opinion and must not influence the trial in any manner. It also observed that there could be no straitjacket formula to determine how a woman may react to an act of outrage.

Court’s Decision

At the outset, the Court laid out that the liberty of the person is a sacrosanct right. While deciding a bail application, the Courts must create a balance between the liberty of the accused and the interests of the victim. The Court acknowledged that the applicant had been incarcerated for the past seven months. He has no criminal antecedents. He is a young graduate in Mechanical Engineering. His father runs a business of manufacturing goods. Therefore, he has firm roots in the society, and the likelihood of him fleeing is low.

Further, due to the ongoing pandemic, there is a huge pendency of cases. The possibility of the case progressing soon is distant. The Court thus feels that keeping the accused incarcerated for an indefinite period would be in contrast to the concept of liberty. The Court, therefore, accepts the application and releases the accused on bail.


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